In Conversation: Jords

Bringing family and rap heroes together on one project...

Jords is ready to come of age.

New project ‘Almost An Adult’ is his broadest, deepest work yet, one that allows the voices of Kida Kudz and Jaz Karis, for example, to intermingle with his own family. Borrowing from grime, hip-hop and more, it’s a deft, in-depth work, one that plays on club tropes while also maintaining a resolutely personal path.

Out now, it’s a bold gesture, one that digs into his own life to reflect on some universal lessons. At times Jords recalls the early work of J. Cole or even Wretch 32 – two artists he name-checks when speaking to Clash – while pursuing his own, highly individual aesthetic gestures.

Clash sat down with the Croydon rapper to discuss lockdown life, virtual mentoring, and his continual creativity.

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‘Almost An Adult’ has been some time in the making – how does it feel to finally have it out there?

It feels quite surreal, to be honest. I’ve had the music in my hands – I’ve been listening to it myself, playing it to friends – for 18 months now. So the fact that the world can finally hear it, is a bit… it’s mad, really. When I listen to it now, knowing what it’s doing and what it’s done, it’s a completely different listen as to before it came out.

It’s a highly personal listen, was it nerve-racking to reveal that much in public?

Not really, to be honest. The main thing I was concerned about was my family. Because obviously there’s a lot of personal information on there, about people that are close to me. I wanted to make sure that whoever is around me is comfortable with that coming out. I played it to everything that is mentioned on the project, just to make sure that they are OK with it.

What is the thread that runs through the project?

It’s tied in by the common theme of growing pains. I think that’s what it is. My story isn’t any different to anyone else’s. When you’re growing up, when you’re going from being a teenager into being a man – being responsible and self-sufficient – a lot happens. Most people fall in love, most people lose loved ones as well. Most people have a tight-knit circle of friends. And most people go through some mental health issues – whether it’s anxiety or depression or something else. I don’t think it’s necessarily tied together musically, but I think the themes tie it together.

There’s a few heavyweights on here – ‘So It Goes’ has Kida Kudz on there…

He’s a top man! We have the same manager. I sent the song to my manager, and said: oh, what do you think….? Let’s get Kida on this one! My manager wasn’t sure, so I just messaged him directly. I sent it to him at 8.30 in the morning, and he sent his verse back at nine o’clock. It’s the only email collaboration on there, and he smashed it! He’s someone that has such a vibe and charisma to him, that any song he is on he will add to it. I think he’s done that on ‘So It Goes’.

The project was largely done face to face, then?

Jaz Karis’ part on ‘Rose Glasses’ and Thia’s part on ‘Halos’ they wrote and recorded them at the same time. Jaz Karis would come round to write, and while she was in the studio Thia turned up with J Warner. We were all just sat down having a conversation, just talking about life, not really talking about any song in particular. We were just chilling, having a vibe – we almost forgot about recording.

We spent five hours talking and then the music became an extension of our conversation. It was really nice to be in that environment. I’ve got this mindset now that whatever I do, I imagine myself to be on camera, and this person’s story is part of my documentary. I don’t know why! But that’s definitely a story that will be told in the future, because it was such a special day around some real talent.

Your grandmother is on the record – how did that take place?

Oh very natural! I like the value in the conversation. If I’m in a conversation, and I feel like it’s a good one and there are some gems that are being dropped, then I’ll record it. I’ll record it on my phone! I think it was the last time I was with my grandma – before she was unwell – and it was just me and her, chatting for hours and hours and hours. I’ve got so much of it on my phone, but that part in particular stood out to me.

I had created the song, and thought: do you know what? I want my grandma to speak on this song, because she can tie it together with her words. And then I had those two parts, and it made perfect sense. It’s the perfect way to immortalise her. Hopefully I’ve done a good job in doing that.

‘Halos’ was turned into a beautiful short film, how did that come about?

We were trying to work out how to represent something that has such diversity to it. It addresses so many different topics and goes through a range of different feels, that we wanted to sum it all up in one thing. When you’re almost an adult… I wanted to sum up the times you go through when you’re growing up. I think that coming of age projects are important. I really like watching coming of age films! So I wanted to bring that same thing across using music.

Visual wise, it didn’t really make sense to put out four videos, because you can’t go from something like ‘Haloes’ to something like ‘Pattern’. It doesn’t really make sense, if we were to release two different videos. If we were to put it into one, and tie it all together into a theme. The tree in the film is a common theme, or the colour schemes, or even going from London to Jamaica… those are my two cultural homes. It made more sense to put it into one film rather than separate music videos.

So, what’s your favourite coming of age film?

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower! I love that film. Breakfast Club… big fan! Even shows, like Model Family. When you see people growing up in front of your eyes… those are the ones that come to mind. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is one of my favourite films of all time.

You’re from Croydon, which is a real music hub right now. Why do you think that is?

You know what I see it as? It’s like Compton. There was a period when Compton was churning out talent – like, everyone… Snoop, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube… you can go on all day.

When you’re from a background with a lower income then everyone is striving – either striving to do something great, or striving to do something wrong. And I think the people that are striving to do something great are realising that if we don’t do this great thing, then we’ll end up doing something wrong. The desire to not do something wrong fuels the desire to do something great, and I think that’s why you see so much talent, and so much talent that is lasting. We just keep churning out talent! And everyone knows each other as well, so everyone keeps pushing each other. It’s a real nice musical community.

There’s a lot of positive reinforcement, in that sense. Is that one of the reasons that you’ve taken up virtual mentoring during lockdown? 

Yeah. For me, my thing is that as an artist you’re meant to make people feel something. And during this lockdown, when a lot of people are feeling down, and it’s weighing on a lot of people’s mental health, I’ve gone out of my way to make people feel good. So even going around and dropping off vinyl face to face at people’s houses, it might just cheer some people up!

And it’s the same thing with mentoring – every Thursday I spend all day calling people on behalf of the mental health charity that I work with. Some of them are in hospital, some of them are in supported accommodation, but they all have some sort of mental health diagnosis. I just call them, check up on them, play some music, and try to get them to write some lyrics. Just try and keep spirits up.

It’s essential that we help each other with what we’re all going through. The world is going through a sombre thing, right now.

How have you been spending lockdown? Sourdough bread and Duo Lingo, is it?

I actually made banana bread! One time. I’ve been trying to keep fit, really. Trying to keep busy. I’ve got a little home studio set up as well, so I’ve been making some more music… just because: why not? Apart from that, it’s more focussed on the roll out of the project. There’s nothing else for me to focus my energy on apart from that.

Is maintaining focus key to getting through this?

100%. I think people tend to overthink and become depressed when you have more time to think about things. If you can do something, it just keeps you a little bit focussed for however long. It is beneficial. But at the same time, it seems like there is a thing going round where if you haven’t learned something new by the end of lockdown, then what have you done? But that’s not everyone’s main coping mechanism.

Mine is to keep busy, but it may not be everyone’s! I did try Duo Lingo, though… I worked on it for a day, but then I gave up!

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'Almost An Adult' is out now.

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